Let’s talk the pelvic floor. An important, but generally overlooked muscle group until you’ve had an issue related to it, such as back pain or incontinence.
Real quick. This is not the be all end all blog on pelvic floor. It’s a brief overview and a few exercises that you may find beneficial.
If you suspect that you have a pelvic floor issue, one of the best things you can do for yourself is see a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health!
That being said, if you’re looking for some general pelvic floor knowledge, here’s a short overview.
- Your pelvic floor (PF) is a group of muscles in the basin of the pelvis.
- They play a role in keeping your organs inside you, pelvic stability and sexual performance.
- Both men and women have a PF, but women have two openings in their pelvic floor, where men only have one, which is one reason why women have more PF problems.
You PF needs an appropriate amount of strength and tension to work well.
When it’s too loose or too tight, you’ll get problems, with the most common ones being incontinence (e.g. peeing when you jump, sneeze or cough), sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain.
It can also correlate with poor core control and back pain.
Interestingly, the issues associated with having a PF that is too tight or too loose are mostly the same. The significant difference is that in the case of extreme PF dysfunction where the muscles are too loose, you’ll get organ prolapse.
Since they’re muscles, your PF can be trained similarly to other muscles via contraction and relaxation. However, they’re not exactly a bicep, so how do you target them?
Your MD might tell you “kegels,” which isn’t wrong. Research has suggested that kegels help with pelvic floor health. However, like all things, execution matters, so I wanted to give you some specific strategies in regards to this with the disclaimer that a specialist will be able to give you far more nuanced information that is specific to your situation.
Let’s talk about how a pelvic floor contraction or kegel works – aka the technical stuff!
Ideally when you inhale your diaphragm contracts and our deep core and pelvic floor relaxes.
When you exhale your diaphragm should relax and the deep core and pelvic floor should gently contract.
But this doesn’t always happen.
Sometimes the pelvic floor and deep core fail to relax or contract in the timing that allows for good core stability and pelvic floor control.
This makes breath is a great place to tune into pelvic floor timing, because you can focus both the contraction and the relaxation phase in the pelvic floor.
Additionally, your PF is neighbors with the muscles that externally rotate your hips and the inner thighs, so working in gentle turn out or targeting the inner thighs can help increase PF engagement, even if you don’t think about contracting the PF.
This is all very heady, but thankfully the exercises aren’t *that* confusing, which is why I made a video for you.
It’s 3 simple exercises that you can do to train your pelvic floor.
Some of them you might already have been doing, so with a simple switch up in your focus, you can stick to your regular workout and reap the additional benefits of pelvic floor training!
Pelvic floor exercises to make kegels more effective
As a final note, even if you don’t have an active pelvic floor problem, tuning into that area can help prevent challenges later down the line.
Also, to reiterate what I said above if you suspect your pelvic floor issue is more complicated than a little weakness or tightness, there are pelvic floor physical therapists out there who do amazing work, so know you don’t have to live with the discomfort. This stuff is common AND treatable, so don’t feel like it’s a life sentence.
And if you want to learn even more about the pelvic floor in relation to exercise, click here to listen to a podcast interview that I did with pelvic floor physical therapist Tamra Wroblesky.